By Anote Ajeluorou
Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), like other associations in the country, used to be vocal on national issues some years back as part of its unwritten pact with the ordinary citizens of Nigeria for whom leadership is still a far cry from the ideal. Crusading for the masses and shielding them against the insensitivity in high places is part of the writer’s duty. But in recent years, ANA’s voice has fallen silent to the dismay of most Nigerians, including Prof. Niyi Osundare
“Who sold ANA? Who bought ANA? And, for how much? Why is ANA’s silence so loud? We need to know who bought us and for how much!” this was the barrage of questions with which the distinguished Professor of English at the New Orleans University, U.S., greeted the ANA vice president, Prof. Sunday Ododo, at the entrance of Kakanfo Inn, Ibadan, venue of the recent yearly Authors’ Forum of University Press Plc. Osundare was guest speaker at the event, and he paid homage to the book.
The renowned poet is deeply frustrated by the apparent silence by the writers’ body. He once played a prominent role in the affairs of the body 1980s when it was newly formed. ANA’s vibrancy in articulating national issues used to be a model for other civil societies. But of late, the writers’ body has significantly lost its voice in the marketplace of national discourse and has gradually fallen into obscurity. But like other concerned citizens, Osundare is worried; and fears that the association has sold out, a situation he views as having tragic consequences both for writers and the Nigerian polity.
In an earlier conversation, where he examined some of the problems plaguing the country, Osundare had expressed his frustration thus, “The bombings all over the place, Boko Haram, the problems in the Niger Delta; for goodness sake, ANA’s voice should be heard. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a former president of ANA apart from being a great writer himself. I understand there is going to be a conference in his name. That is good. ANA should be more interested and should be more vociferous about what is happening in the Niger Delta; what is happening in the North; what is happening to this country.
“Innocent Youths Corp members were murdered in cold blood not long ago. An association of writers should say something about this. Nobody needs to tell us; our pen commits us, and it commits us seriously. I must say that in terms of gatherings and so on, well, it’s good. But ANA should not be an association of annual convention only. Writing is what we do virtually every minute of the day. Even when we are not putting pen to paper, we’re doing writing in our heads.
“I think the values that we cherish, the values that we think our country should cherish, the rights that human beings should cherish, should all be on the front plate of ANA. At the moment, I don’t hear the voice of ANA. I hear the voice of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA); I hear the voice of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and even women organisations and so on.
“And, of course Association Senior Staff Unions of Universities (ASUU), has remained so relevant in this country not because it’s an association of teachers agitating for higher salaries for its members but by talking about the polity itself. I still consider myself a member of ASUU. I remember how we used to write our communiqués. It was 50-50– 50 per cent dealt with ASUU issues while the remaining 50 dealt with the state of the nation. ANA has not been talking about the state of the nation at all.
“If there were no country, there would be no ANA; if there is no peace in this country, we’ll not be able to write and write well. ANA needs to go back to being the conscience of the writer and the nation”.